There are many different tactics and strategies that can be employed when playing the popular casino game of blackjack, and each one will have an effect on the overall house edge. Learning basic blackjack strategy and how to count cards are the two methods that will bring down the house edge the most, but these require a good memory and practice. A much simpler strategy, that can be just as crucial to reducing house edge and boosting your bankroll, is simply selecting the right blackjack table.
The first thing to look out for when taking a seat at a blackjack table in the casino, or logging on to your favourite online casino, is the pay out for making blackjack. More and more casinos are offering less than the traditional pay out of three to two for making a blackjack, often replacing it with a vastly inferior six to five, or even one to one.
These tables should be avoided at all costs. Be certain to take note of the payout before sitting down – it should be written on the felt or on a sign near to the table in a live casino and it will be clearly marked at the online casino. If in doubt – ask.
Secondly, it is worth remembering that the more decks used at a blackjack table, the greater the house edge, so it pays to try and play at a blackjack table using the fewest number of decks. Ideally, you would like to play with just a single deck, as this offers the greatest opportunity to memorise which cards have been used and therefore increasing the player’s chances of making correct decisions, as well as increasing the probability of making a blackjack.
A single deck blackjack table, where the player is using optimal blackjack strategy, usually offers a house edge of around 0.17%, though the exact advantage for the casino will depend on the exact rules. As a single deck is very much in the player’s favour when compared to the standard eight deck blackjack shoe, the casino will usually enforce stricter rules in other areas to compensate, such as disallowing players from re-splitting.
With a two deck blackjack shoe, the casino’s advantage increases around 0.35%, while four decks is around 0.48% and six decks sees the house edge increase by around 0.54%. When seeking out a blackjack table, it definitely pays to watch out for the number of decks involved.
An excellent innovation in the world of online casinos is Betfair‘s “Zero Blackjack”, which actually has a house edge of 0%. The rules vary slightly in that players are not allowed to split aces, but if you make a suited blackjack, you will be paid out at two to one, rather than three to two.
This is definitely a game worth playing, if you’re looking for a variation on the classic blackjack. All new Betfair accounts qualify for up to £200 in free bets too – a welcome boost to anyone’s bankroll.
Speaking of bankrolls, there is an often overlooked element of table selection, that applies to both the real life casino and the online casino – the number of players seated. Mathematically speaking, the number of other players at your blackjack table makes absolutely no difference to your chances of winning, or to the house edge, but what it will do, is affect the total number of hands dealt, which is important to the long term preservation of your bankroll.
Imagine the dealer is churning out blackjack hands at the rate of 100 per hour, with just yourself and one other player at the table, so you are both receiving around 50 hands each per hour. If you are betting £2 per hand, then you would expect to wager £100 per hour. If the house edge at this particular blackjack table is 0.5%, then you will theoretically expect to lose £0.50 per hour (0.5/100 x £100 = £0.50).
Let’s imagine that another two players join the blackjack table. The dealer’s speed doesn’t change, so those 100 hands per hour are now shared amongst four players, meaning 25 hands each per hour. Realistically, with more hands in play and more decisions being made, the rate will actually be slightly slower, but let’s use 25 hands per hour to keep the maths simple.
25 hands per hour at £2 per hand, with a house edge of 0.5%, will see you theoretically wagering £50 per hour and therefore losing £0.25 per hour – much more favourable terms in the long run.
As we all know, a penny saved is a penny earned. It is just as important to reduce losses as to maximise winnings. If you were offered the choice of losing $1 or $10, you’d surely take the former rather than the latter? So if you’re looking to enjoy a session of blackjack, be it online or in the bricks and mortar casino, make sure that you play at a table with plenty of other people, to stretch out the enjoyment and preserve your bankroll for as long as possible.
Good luck at the blackjack tables!